Peter Grosslight (1946-2014)

Ed Bicknell laments the passing of the late and great Peter Grosslight who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer and died, aged 68, in August 2014.

I first met Peter in the mid 1980s, by which time, he and his partner Richard Rosenberg had sold their company, Triad Artists, to the William Morris Agency. Being on the Prince’s Trust Committee, I found myself charged with the task of placing the international TV rights for the Trust concerts and Peter contacted me with a view to taking care of the North American end, which he did very successfully, swelling the charity’s coffers considerably and adding greatly to its exposure.  

Being an enthusiastic Anglophile he got a special thrill out of being presented to Prince Charles and Princess Diana backstage at one of the Wembley Arena shows. Peter had a well developed and droll sense of humour. When somehow he managed an audience with the Pope he told me it was because the Vatican were looking for a Jewish agent!   In 1988, despite huge resistance from the conservative (and white-owned) US networks, he was able to place the first Nelson Mandela Concert, which actually represented something of a personal ‘risk’ to him, given the political climate of the time. Being a great believer in human and civil rights he simply overrode the resistance and was also instrumental in getting Whitney Houston to perform there.
We became firm friends and it was especially gratifying that he never tried to use that friendship to poach any of my artists from whichever US agencies I had placed them with. That was very Peter. Unlike his competitors who drove me nuts with their incessant and pointless hassling, he recognised that loyalty was a huge factor for me and that if it happened, it happened... there was no point in sending me hampers at Christmas or gift baskets to my LA hotel or reducing the commission rate to unrealistic levels. Loyalty was something he understood and practiced personally, even if it were to his professional disadvantage.
Unusually for his profession, Peter really was a gentleman and a gentle man. In the entire time I knew him, I only saw him lose it on two occasions. Once was at a social dinner where one of the guests launched into a disgraceful anti-Semitic rant, and the other when he stepped in to prevent bullying of those who were not in a position to defend themselves.

As someone who had been heavily involved in the American Civil Rights Movement, that was typical of his personality – always fighting for the underdog. It was during that period he connected with the wonderful Joan Baez who became a long-time client and close friend, and who appeared at the benefit he and Irving Azoff organised for The Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer in January of this year. That event, which also featured the Eagles, raised the staggering sum of $13million dollars in ONE night! Because Peter was so open and courageous about his illness, and gave a very moving speech, the evening inevitably and quite rightly turned into a tribute to him.
I recall with great fondness a trip that he, Peter Grant and I took to the first In The City conference in Manchester in 1992. Bear with me on the names. Peter (Grosslight) turned up at Euston with an enormous set of golf clubs and what seemed like a ridiculous amount of luggage being wheeled down the platform by not one but two porters.

Peter (Grant) who was equally as ‘dry’ as Peter (Grosslight) commented, “Fuck me. If I’d known you were going to bring your house, I’d have brought mine. ‘Ere, are you sure there are golf courses in Lancashire?” Peter (Grosslight) admitted that he wasn’t and was carting all this with him “on spec” such was his enthusiasm for the game. Nor did he have anyone in mind to play with but that was a mere detail. In the event, he did find a course to play on but it chucked down with rain throughout. Not to be outdone he continued to play on British courses over the next 20 years plus and ruefully admitted that he never managed to get one single dry game. Every single one took place in a downpour. Still, better than attending panels on health and safety or Swiss driving regulations.
One day in the early 90s, he asked if I’d like to join him for dinner at the Bombay Brasserie in London. When I arrived, I was faintly bemused to find him accompanied by an extremely attractive, personable and funny young lady. This turned out to be the wonderful and quintessentially English Carolyn who in short order became Mrs Grosslight. Together they had two wonderful children, Charlie (recently graduated) and Sammie (currently at university).
As most readers will know, in 2006 he called me and asked if I’d set-up and run an international music department out of London. As it turned out, it didn’t work for me, but when I left there were no arguments, no anger, no recriminations. He was gracious and understood exactly why I felt as I did, and we remained exactly as we had been.
He fought his disease like a tiger. He never complained, never felt sorry for himself. He was a champion throughout. My wife Pele and I miss him already. It was a privilege to know him.

Ed Bicknell